FISA Developments

The Hill today reports that the White House is talking directly to Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, over legislation that would allow needed surveillance of foreign telecommunications to continue, i.e., FISA reform.  If the stakes weren’t so serious, we’d dismiss it as an another account of turf battles, prerogatives, who-said-what-when and the like…the inevitable if annoying back-and-forth that occurs with any large group of people, legislative bodies especially.

But the stakes are high. House leadership has prevented a vote on FISA reform that would reauthorize the effective surveillance needed to protect U.S. citizens from terrorist attacks, with one sticking point being immunity for telecommunications companies that assisted in post-9/11 surveillance in response to lawful government orders. The telecoms are facing some 40 lawsuits from individuals and groups who oppose the Administration’s position on surveillance, aided by trial lawyers out for a buck.

Andrew C. McCarthy has been covering the McCain camp’s view of the FISA legislation, cast into doubt after a recent Washington Post story.  In a National Review article Monday, McCarthy summarizes:

The McCain campaign is unequivocally telling “Corner” readers that the senator supports the Senate bill, that he believes the telecoms acted appropriately in acquiescing in government requests for cooperation after the 9/11 attacks, and that no further hearings are necessary to get to the bottom of what happened given the searching congressional investigations that have already occurred.

CQ Politics covered the lobbying angle on Monday here.

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